exposing the dark side of adoption
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Adoptive mother delays meeting with sheriff as furor explodes



The mother and grandmother of a young adopted Russian boy sent by himself back to Moscow failed to make an appointment they had originally scheduled Friday to talk to Bedford County Sheriff Randall Boyce about the case.

Boyce told media representatives Friday that Torry Hansen would not be showing up at his department, but "may be here sometime next week."

"She called and said her attorney didn't think it was in her best interest at this point ... mainly because of the media being here," Boyce said.

Attorney Trisha L. Henegar said late Friday that her law firm was contacted by the Hansen family and that they are in the early stages of their investigation.

"Initially, it appears there is a lot of pressure with external matters involving the adoption and we are hopeful that our investigation will have a reasonable explanation to what has occurred," Henegar said. She would not comment on what she meant by "external" pressure.

Representatives from all four Nashville television news stations, ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC, CNN, AP and several Russian news crews descended on Bedford County after the story became an international scandal on Friday.

Boyce said that his office would speak to Hansen eventually, but the sheriff said it was "hard to say exactly if a law had been broken."

"This is a very unique deal," Boyce said. "We'll have to look at it to see what has been done and can be done about it so it doesn't happen again."

Grandmother Nancy Hansen told The Associated Press on Friday from her home in Shelbyville that she put the child on a plane to Russia with a note from her daughter. She says the family paid a man $200 to pick the boy up at the airport and take him to the Russian Education and Science Ministry.

"He drew a picture of our house burning down and he'll tell anybody that he's going to burn our house down with us in it," she told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "It got to be where you feared for your safety. It was terrible."

The sheriff said that if any charges had been pressed against Torry Hansen, "we would be out looking for her," adding that there may or may not be charges filed because investigators have not been able to put their finger on any laws that she may have broken.

Bob Tuke, a Nashville attorney and member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, said abandonment charges against the family could depend on whether the boy was a U.S. citizen.

It wasn't clear if the adoption had become final. A Tennessee health department spokeswoman said there was no birth certificate issued for the boy, a step that would indicate he had become a U.S. citizen.

Boyce said his department is working with the district attorney's office and other officials to see "what can and what will be done."

"This is a little over the sheriff's department's head," he said, explaining that his officers are usually out chasing thieves and drug dealers.

Boyce said the U.S. State Department first called Shelbyville police at noon on Thursday, who in turn called the sheriff's office since the Hansen residence is outside the city limits.

"This is an international deal ... and we're going to handle it a little bit at a time so we don't make a mistake," he said, adding that his department had never dealt with this kind of situation before.

But Boyce also explained that if a law has been broken, "we'll do something about it," saying that they would have an idea by the middle of next week what they were going to do.

Officials have also been looking into if the child had attended school anywhere in the area, but Boyce said that they haven't found anything so far. He stated the child could have been home schooled or taken to another county's school system.

Russian media has claimed the boy was abused, and Boyce said this was part of what was making the case so difficult for his office to investigate.

"We're here, and the child is in Russia, so it's hard to know if this child has been abused ... he's half the world away."

Boyce also said that there had been no reports of abuse prior to the story breaking this week and that the adoption agency had last spoken to Hansen in January "and everything appeared to be fine."

When asked about Hansen's 10-year-old biological son, Boyce said, "We haven't found him yet. We will."

The sheriff speculated that the Hansen family took the child out of the way "until this calms down." Boyce said there has never been problems with the Hansen family at all.

"If she has adopted this child, you would assume that her record was spotless," Boyce said.

Boyce added that he had not heard from either Washington or Moscow, but that he was going to call them. The department is currently working through the adoption agency.

The case has prompted outrage in Russia, where foreign adoption failures are reported prominently. Russian main TV networks ran extensive reports on the latest incident in their main evening news shows.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the family's actions "the last straw" in a string of U.S. adoptions gone wrong, including three in which Russian children had died in the U.S. The cases have prompted outrage in Russia, where foreign adoption failures are reported prominently.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev strongly condemned the family's actions, telling ABC News that the boy "fell into a very bad family."

"It is a monstrous deed on the part of his adoptive parents, to take the kid and virtually throw him out with the airplane in the opposite direction and to say, 'I'm sorry I could not cope with it, take everything back' is not only immoral but also against the law," Medvedev said.

Acting Shelbyville City Manager Betty Lamb said she fielded a call from the Russian Embassy requesting a conference call with Mayor Wallace Cartwright. However, Lamb said the city knew nothing about the matter and referred the Russian diplomat to the Sheriff's Department.

The Russian education ministry immediately suspended the license of the group involved in the adoption -- the World Association for Children and Parents, a Renton, Wash.-based agency -- for the duration of an investigation. Any possible freeze on Russian adoptions could affect hundreds of American families. Last year, nearly 1,600 Russian children were adopted in the United States.

-- Associated Press reports contributed to this story.

2010 Apr 10